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Energy ministers slam EU gas price cap proposal as 'unenforceable'

Malta's Energy Minister Miriam Dalli, shown arriving Thursday in Brussels for a special EU energy ministers meeting, slammed a proposed cap on natural gas prices as "next to impossible." Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE
Malta's Energy Minister Miriam Dalli, shown arriving Thursday in Brussels for a special EU energy ministers meeting, slammed a proposed cap on natural gas prices as "next to impossible." Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- European Union energy ministers voiced strong disagreements Thursday on a proposal to cap the price of natural gas amid the continent's energy crisis, slamming it as largely unworkable.

Energy ministers met in Brussels to lay out plans to preserve natural gas through the winter months and navigate spikes in usage. Russia's war on Ukraine is one of the main culprits in rising concerns over the energy market in Europe.

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A proposal tabled by the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, includes a price cap of $286 per megawatt hour, which is well above where gas prices hover. The cap would be triggered if prices remain at that level for two weeks and the difference with the world price for liquified natural gas is equal to or greater than $60.

Energy ministers are divided on the idea of a cap as a whole -- about half the bloc's 27 member states want a price cap.

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But many agreed the current proposal is far too high and would not even had been triggered during the record spike in August when Russia halted supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

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There are also provisions in the plan that could drop the cap if adverse effects are experienced.

"It's absolutely unenforceable, inefficient and out of scope," said Teresa Ribera, Spain's ecological transition minister, told reporters. "It's a bad joke."

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Miriam Dalli, Malta's energy and environment minister, said it would be "next to impossible" to activate the price cap with the proposed requirements.

The EU officials will be charged with amending the proposal ahead of a meeting expected on Dec. 13, according to Czech Energy Minister Jozef Sikela.

"We are ready to facilitate an agreement and help address concerns," said Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for energy. "This is an extraordinary tool for extraordinary times."

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